The life of Lex

Random ramblings on travel, London life, roast ratings etc

“Nothing prosecco can’t fix”

Anon

 

oxbo roast

Last week, to celebrate a couple of family birthdays, we went to OXBO Bankside (http://www.oxbobankside.co.uk). Of course we went for the bottomless prosecco option – it would be rude not to when it’s only an additional £12 each… I’d definitely recommend booking as it was fairly busy when we went, with lots of big groups and is definitely a good location for a celebration.

With a bottomless booking, you have two hours to help yourself to unlimited starters and desserts and then a choice of mains. Your main is served to you. Last Sunday, we had a choice of roasted sirloin of beef, grilled corn fed chicken, roasted stone bass or thanet cauliflower, broccoli lentil dahl. Unsurprisingly, I opted for the beef and was rather pleased that this came with a Yorkshire pudding (the chicken didn’t). We had a choice of well done or rare but our larger group size meant that I could swap to one which was more to my tastes (medium rare). The vegetables were broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and green beams. Even though we only got one roast potato, it was large and delicious. High points also go to the meat with both the beef and chicken rating highly. The only downside was that we could have done with a little more gravy between us.

oxbo start

The bottomless roast is £42 per head with unlimited prosecco (£30 for just the food). This is an absolute bargain for the amount of food on offer. The highlight is of course the tables full of starters and desserts. To start, there was a variety of salads, seafood, meat etc. My favourites were the smoked duck breast, coated salmon and beef. I have to confess that we all went up for seconds and could easily have had thirds if we hadn’t been saving ourselves some rooms for the mains!

Dessert wise, there was everything ranging from sweets, cakes, trifles and meringues, with a cheese board as well. I had spotted the prosecco jelly early on so made sure to grab one of those and a couple of the mini fruit meringues. Sadly, there wasn’t much cheese left by the time we got there as we had gone for one of the last sittings. I’m not sure I could have fitted much more in anyway!

We had a great meal and definitely got our moneys worth on the prosecco front! The staff were friendly and attentive. There was live music, which was excellent but a little loud if you were sitting close by. But of course, the best thing was spending time with my lovely family.

oxbo flowers

“Come, listen to my ditty, while of Rye I sing the fame;

For ’tis indeed an ancient town in character and name.

At first it was an island rock all lonely in the sea;

And neither man nor woman there the mariner could see.

I think ’tis more than probable; the seagulls settled here,

And were the sole inhabitants thro’ many a distant year.”

William Holloway (excerpt from ‘Rye: a ballad’)

 

Rye planning

We spent last weekend in Rye for the boys birthday. I chose Rye because we had our first ever weekend away there almost exactly three years ago! We even stayed at the same hotel (http://thegeorgeinrye.com) although my budget didn’t quite extend to the same level of luxury as his! The bed was comfortable but the room was really hot – we ended up unplugging the heater so we could sleep better!

Last time we visited, we went kite surfing which was great fun but i’d definitely recommend waiting until the weather is warmer! We had also climbed the tower of St Mary’s church, which is definitely well worth doing. Keep your eyes looking up so you don’t miss the oldest functioning church turret clock. The Quarterboys strike the quarter hours and there is a tenor bell to announce the hour.

Ypres castle

Somehow, we managed to miss Ypres Tower last time, despite this being just behind the church! I would thoroughly recommend a visit – it’s only £4 for an adult and packed with much more than you’d expect from the outside. The two staff we met were great fun and told us more about the exhibits. I enjoyed reading about the smugglers and other local legends. As you can see from my photo, we didn’t have the best weather (rain in England in February – who’d have thought it!) so didn’t spend too long out on the balcony! Ypres Tower was built in the 14th century, making it the second oldest building in Rye. Walking out towards the cannons after we’d finished looking around, we spotted the Ypres Castle pub. The rain provided a good excuse to pop in and we were lucky to grab seats by the fire. The staff were lovely and the hops above the bar were a lovely touch. We were still full from our generous breakfasts but the food smelt great!

Other pubs worth a mention are the Mermaid Inn, where the notorious Hawkhurst smugglers used to meet. As we were not staying in the hotel, we could only sit in the Inn area. I liked the stained glass and historic wall decorations. The Old Bell, Rye’s oldest pub, has a lovely beer garden (for warmer days) and is quaint in it’s décor.

We made sure we popped into The Tiny Book Store which is crammed full of books of all genres. The Rye map shown in the top picture was bought in Campion Frames which was a treasure trove of goodies – the boy is still talking about a picture he wished he’d bought!

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Overall, we had a lovely chilled weekend. Sadly we had to leave early on Sunday, just as the sun came out and the whole historic town looked beautiful with the backdrop of blue skies. We’ve already said we’ll come back when the weather is warmer, with a view to going to Camber Sands and visiting one of the three nearby vineyards.

“Gin & Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire”

Winston Churchill

 

This week, we went to the Punch Tavern on Fleet Street (www.punchtavern.com) for our roast and I have to say we were impressed! It’s a historic site, having been a former gin palace and was named due to its proximity to Punch magazine. It is charming inside – we were lucky enough to get a banquet seat with a view of the whole pub area.

 

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As per usual, we started off with beers. I had a guest ale which was served in a traditional dimpled glass tankard. I always think beer tastes better out of them!

Roast wise, we had a choice of roast beef or chicken. Obviously I had the beef. It was served with parsnip, cabbage, carrots and bonus cauliflower cheese. The cauliflower cheese was delicious – nicely cheesy but not overdone. The beef was thinly sliced and cooked to our personal taste, which is unusual with a pub roast and meant that the meat scored very highly! The roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding were also good. It was a decent portion size but didn’t look like much when it arrived with all the veg hidden from sight!

Roast punch tavern

I had the Malbec to drink and really enjoyed it. The rioja was not quite so good however. Sadly there was no cheese board option but the chocolate and caramel torte was lovely with a good mix of textures and flavours.

The rest of the menu looks interesting, with some decent veggie options so with the relaxed atmosphere and staff who were friendly and helpful, i’m sure we’ll be back again soon.

pud punch tavern

 

(Quote was displayed in the pub entrance and I quite liked it)

“Fitness is not about being better than someone else…

It’s about being better than you used to be”

Khloe Kardasian

 

So yesterday, I finally joined a gym! Getting in there just in time to avoid paying a joining fee… I think we were quite impressed that I just walked in off the street and signed up pretty much straight away.

I read earlier this week that most people give up their new year resolutions within the first four weeks of the year so perhaps starting one of mine at this stage is the best solution! And hopefully means that I’ll avoid the new year gym hecticness.

 

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When I’ve not exercised for a while, the way that I get back into it is by swimming. I learnt to swim before I started school and used to swim for my local town when I was little. I love being in the water and have no real fear. Sadly living in central London means that if I want to join a gym with a pool, I have to pay more for the privilege, hence my joy at saving a few pounds!

My first and best gym experience was 10 years ago now, when I had a job with anti-social hours, meaning that I could use the gym at off-peak times and for a reduced rate. This ensured that I was recognised by the staff, so when I hadn’t been in for a few days, would be asked what i’d been up to instead. It felt like there was someone else with an interest in my fitness. It was the best and most confident that i’ve been.

I’m hoping that exercise will help me to sleep better – something that I’ve really been struggling with over the last few months. I’m constantly feeling sluggish and thus am eating stodgy winter comfort foods. Hopefully I’ll soon be a stronger healthier me!

 

(Ps. Pretty disappointed that the best quote I found was from a Kardashian…)

“The love of our family flows strong and deep,

leaving us memories to treasure and keep”

Anon

 

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend up North, with my Mum’s side of the family, as it was my aunt’s 60th birthday. Oh and how she loves to celebrate! My sister and I travelled up on her birthday and arrived to a full house with champagne flowing and piles of wonderful presents scattered in every free space! One of my cousins had made a personalised scrap book filled with fantastic photos through the years and little quotes – the changing hairstyles had us all tickled!

 

60 balloon

 

On Friday, my aunt treated all the nieces to a spa day- blissful! All nine of us had two treatments and we were able to hire out the whole spa just for us. As an added bonus, we were allowed to bring in our own bubbly. I opted for a back message which was AMAZING and an eye remedy, which was like a mini facial and then cool stones around the eyes. I can’t say my bags are any smaller but it was very relaxing! The time absolutely flew by – I had planned to go for a swim but before I knew it, we’d been there for 7 hours and it was time to go… At least we were all able to make full use of the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Girly time is the best and we think this may well have been the first time it was just the girl cousins, without brothers, partners etc

 

spa fun

 

We were absolutely exhausted so it was an early night after a day of relaxation so it was an early night all around! On Saturday, I went over to see my cousins gorgeous new flat and he cooked us a fantastic dinner of sirloin beef and dauphinoise potatoes with vegetables. The spoiling continued!

I stayed with my 92 year old Nan on Saturday night – she is one of the most incredible women you could ever meet, with some fantastic stories including her attempt to run away back home after she was evacuated during the war. I’m trying to treasure every moment I spend with her and ask her to tell me all the stories I’ve heard many times before in the hope that i’ll remember them in the way she tells them.

All in all, I had a fabulous weekend with a few of my nearest and dearest. I come from a big family and loved having so many cousins when I was growing up but we live quite a distance from the majority so don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like. Perhaps I should add prioritising family to my list of new year resolutions?

“Roast beef, medium, is not only a food. It is a philosophy”

Edna Ferber

roast crop

 

A traditional Sunday roast has long been one of my favourite meals, probably because I was blessed with a Mum who was a fabulous cook and made us one very week! For over a year, I have been on a mission to find the best pub roast in London… Unfortunately with working weekends etc, we probably only manage to venture out around once a month so we still have many more to try!

Much to the boys amusement, I have 18 categories, focusing on every aspect of the roast dinner, as well as the location in general. The rules are simple: a beer whilst we peruse the menu, before we order roast beef (i’m a traditionalist and can’t risk not getting a Yorkshire pudding!), red wine with the meal (followed by another glass or two…) and dessert- opting for the cheese board wherever possible.

No reviews of the best roast in London would be complete without a visit to Roast in Borough Market (www.roast-restaurant.com). So I’ve finally made it there!

 

roast meal 1

 

We opted for the 3 courses for £37.50 deal, which offered a choice of chicken, lamb shoulder, pork belly or roast sirloin of beef as their roast options, alongside a wide range of other dishes. We were definitely tempted by the roast chateaubriand for two but weren’t sure if it justified the additional cost.

For starters, we ordered the scotch egg and fish cake, both had roast beef and then apple crumble and cheese for dessert. The starters were fantastic! The roast beef was great too- thinly sliced and cooked medium to our request, with the horseradish being refreshingly different. The Yorkshire was presented as it should be- large and rustic. More gravy came at our request and the staff were attentive without being intrusive. The only slight disappointment for me was the apple crumble – it just wasn’t as good as Mums! The three cheeses were all tasty with two hard cheeses and one blue however a better cracker range would be nice. We opted for the Ruca Malen Malbec, which has been produced exclusively for Roast and it complimented the meal beautifully.

Overall, a good start to our roast ratings this year but not a front runner. However the rest of the menu looks good so we’ll undoubtedly be back soon!

roast wineroast cheese crop

 

“The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There’s a kind of glory to them when they’re all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” 

Andy Rooney

 

riga view

 

So first up and my travel trip for January was Riga in Latvia. I try to make the most of my days off work, so this was a short trip with just two days in the capital. Unfortunately, I was feeling pretty run down so lacked my usual get up and go and the grey January skies didn’t help.

I stayed at the Wellton Riga Hotel and Spa, which was a short walk from the old town and the spa was great for chilling out in the evening, with Jacuzzis, a sauna and steam room. The buffet breakfast was extensive and you could even help yourself to bubbly!

I started my day with a walk past the Laima clock and Freedom Monument and through Bastion Hill on my way to the Occupation Museum. Like most of the museums in Riga, entrance is free with voluntary donations. I am fascinated by the recent past and this museum was very comprehensive. Next was the Orthodox cathedral with beautiful gold décor on the dome and inside. I was intrigued by the art nouveau district so wandered around keeping my eyes up! The art nouveau museum is small but there are lots of interactive displays.

beer tasting

I made sure I was at the Skyline bar before sunset for beautiful views (from the panaromic lift, glass walled bathrooms and of course the bar). Situated on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Latvija Conference Hotel, it is definitely worth heading there for a glass of wine at dusk in order to get the views in daylight and then all lit up at night. To end my night, I went beer tasting at the Aussie Pub backpackers, where you can get 14 beers for the bargainous price of 10Euro! Well worth it.

The next day was more focused on the old town, with visits to The House of Blackheads (merchants house), St Peter’s church with great but chilly views from the top of the spire, Riga’s dome cathedral (look out for organ concerts!) and the Jewish Museum which is a little further than the massive central market, taking up 5 large buildings.

Things to seek out are:

  • The Three Brothers – adjacent buildings that legend has it were built by three brothers, despite being from different centuries, and are the oldest dwellings in Riga with the most ancient being from the 15th century
  • The statue of the Bremen town musicians – which features animals from the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, standing on top of each other, which is located outside St Peter’s church
  • The black cats – two of which are on the roof of a building opposite the guild. The story goes that when a wealthy man was refused admission to the Guild, he had two cats erected on the roof with their backs to the Guild as a snub (they have now been turned around after he was taken to the courts!)
  • Swedish Gate – a part of the original city walls. Apparently the executioner would display a red rose the night before an execution was scheduled
  • Art nouveau décor – can be spotted in various places all around the city and is one of Riga’s claims to fame. The details and facial expressions really entertained me

 

An unexpected highlight, considering I travelled after twelfth night, was the Christmas trees everywhere. Did you know that the Christmas tree as we know it originated in Latvia, where trees where first decorated in the early 1400’s? They helped keep my festive spirit going a little longer!

riga christmas tree

 

Next travel trip:  Senegal

 

“Penicillin cures but wine makes people happy”
Alexander Fleming

My friend, who has lived in Australia for the last four years, has been back in the UK over the festive period so we thought we’d use one of our catch-ups to get out of London  and do something fun. After much deliberation, we settled on Dorking due to its close proximity to London and the presence of Denbies and a large number of pubs!

We stayed in the newly refurbished White Horse (bespokehotels.com/dorking-white-horse), which had lots of lovely touches in the room such as Dickens books and horse shaped shortbread. The bed was super soft and we loved all the equine touches in the bar/restaurant.

 

white horse

 

The next morning, we headed off to Denbies, which is one of the largest wine producers in the UK. I am a member of the loyalty club – well worth the £25 annual fee. We had an informative tour which included a film on the history of the vineyard, followed by a tour of the working winery and then a tasting. We had opted for the classic tasting, trying two whites and a rose in the cellar room, with beautiful barrels as the decoration. I am definitely going to return in warmer weather when you can have an outdoor train tour through the beautiful vineyard setting. After our tour we treated ourselves to a glass of Denbies award winning sparkling wine in the cafe.

 

wine tasting

 

We then had a lovely lunch before strolling through Dorking, browsing the antique shops with a quick pit stop in a pub or two… The museum was closed as it was midweek so it looks like I have a few good excuses to pop to Dorking again soon!

“It’s pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves.

The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day”

Edith Lovejoy Pierce

 

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The start of a new year is often taken to be a new beginning. In fact, the first month gets its name from Janus, a two-faced God who the Romans believed looked backwards into the old year whilst simultaneously looking ahead to the future.

 

Traditionally, new years resolutions were about improving ones self. In fact, common objectives set now have been proven to be more successful than resolutions made at other times of the year.

 

Personally, I am hoping that 2018 will be my year of travel. I’m hoping to get away every single month this year and am aiming to up my country count too – I am on a rather respectable 50 plus (which is about 22% of the world) but have nearly 50% of Europe yet to visit! So first off is a city break to Riga in Latvia next week. My first holiday and first new country of the year.

 

I’m also aiming to be a better tourist in my own country. The boy and I aim to get away together once a month, often booking last minute. But I also want to explore more of London – I can’t remember the last time I went to a museum here!

 

Along with the rest of the country, I am going to join a gym and aspire to a healthier me.

 

Oh and of course, I want to blog…

As 2017 comes to an end, I’ve been looking forward to 2018 and wondering what I hoped to achieve. Having kept a blog when I was working abroad, I’ve missed having somewhere to record my thoughts, so one of my new years resolutions is to blog again.

For probably the first time ever, I actually managed to keep my new years resolution from 2017… It was simple – eat less meat. I decided that I would try to do ‘Meat free Mondays’ each week as a simple way to eat more sustainably and found this pretty easy, so as the year went on, I also made sure I stuck to fishy Fridays. Don’t get me wrong, a good steak and red wine is one of lifes greatest pleasures so I have no intention of giving up meat altogether!

Anyway, having managed to keep a resolution last year, I figured I might be on a roll so thought i’d start this whilst enthusiasm was high. And of course, as a procrastination tool when I have so much to do in the run up to the festive season…

So here I am, looking forwards!